Uganda Parliament Passes Brutal Anti-Gay Law

The news: Uganda's parliament has finally passed an odious anti-gay bill even worse than Russia's, marking the passage into law of a horrific piece of legislation condemned since it was introduced on the world stage in 2009.

The legislation would make homosexuality, already illegal under Ugandan law, even more dangerous in the country. Certain homosexual acts will be deigned worthy of life imprisonment, including if a minor was involved, if the perpetrator was HIV-positive, or if they were guilty of "repeat offending" (under the original legislation, these acts would merit the death sentence). It also bans "promotion" of homosexuality. On Thursday, the same socially conservative bloc which passed the anti-gay bill passed an "Anti-Pornography Bill" which made miniskirts illegal and "sexually suggestive" materials like music videos.

The background: Uganda is an extremely socially conservative country, controlled mainly by the National Resistance Movement, which has 263/375 seats in the national assembly as well as the presidency. But the law passed unanimously.

"This is victory for Uganda. I am glad the parliament has voted against evil," said David Bahati, the NRM MP who sponsored the bill. "Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way. It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks."

President Yoweri Museveni may or may not sign the legislation into law; a supporter of the original plan to put homosexuals to death, he has slightly modified his stance following the international outcry.

In March, Museveni claimed he was only opposed to promotion of homosexuality and asserted: "In our society there were a few homosexuals. There was no persecution, no killings and no marginalization of these people but they were regarded as deviants. Sex among Africans including heterosexuals is confidential. If I am to kiss my wife in public, I would lose an election in Uganda."

One leader of the Ugandan gay rights movement, Frank Mugisha, called it "a truly terrifying day for human rights in Uganda," adding it was "the worst anti-gay law in the world."

"It will open a new era of fear and persecution. If this law is signed by President Museveni, I'd be thrown in jail for life and in all likelihood killed."

Even more disgustingly, the law was backed by some American evangelical Christians. Ugandan activists singled out Scott Lively, a U.S. citizen who also toured Russia promoting that nation's anti-gay legislation. In March, they sued him in international court for human rights violations, and in August, an American judge ruled the suit could continue.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story implied Uganda has already passed the anti-gay bill into law. While the parliament has done so, the president has yet to do so and has ultimate authority.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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